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March 27, 2005


more here on the issue. I'm glad you're putting it in this context. i consider it part of the Schiavo fallout, with Republicans in Congress scrambling to reestablish some reality credentials.

One aspect about the "life" debate I haven't seen discussed much is the difference between concentrating on one "sacred" life versus looking at people as a whole.

It is easy to isolate Terri Schiavo and talk about the sanctity of life and the "culture of life" in a way that is at once personalized and abstract. Personalized, obviously, in the person of Terri Schiavo. But abstract, also, because her life is abstracted coimpletley out of the context of the shared life of everyone in the country.

For instance, Terri's parents aren't paying for her care, and as a nation we could obviously not pay for keeping every single person alive on artificial life support until something gives out irreparably. Nor is the GOP proposing that we do so, certainly not with tax dollars, and I am willing to bet the farm that Frist doesn't think the family HMO should pay for it either. So what are we really talking about here? It is a symbolic discussion with no relevance at all to the kinds of probelms that we send people to Washington to solve.

We really need to spend more time putting things BACK in context. No discussion should be allowed to take place in this kind of artificial, abstract, contextless way. Every political choice has to be connected to the lost opportunities that it will create. Otherwise, it looks like a set of discrete choices with no consequences.

Go to Iraq? Forget rebuilding our own infrastructure.

Eliminate the estate tax? Forget making Social Security solvent.

Massive drug benefit with payoffs to HMOs? Forget getting control of Medicare costs.

Leave farm subsidies as they are? Forget weaning Afghan farmers off poppy because they have nothing they can grow economically in its place.

Every choice involves not doing something else, and every choice is part of a context.

Mimikatz--you're 100% correct about context. In most political/policy debates with the rightwing, context should be our friend. Unfortunately, liberals/progressives aren't always that adept at providing a context, or as others might say, "telling a story." Some of our better rhetoricians do, especially the populists, but overall, we're not that great.

That's one area where I think Reid is clearly superior to Daschle, in that he's so far been fairly good at putting things into a context that's adventagious to us, rather than quibbling about details in the context (or frame) offered by the Repubs.

Oh, Page, thanks for saving me the self-serving effort to link to the piece about Jeb's doctor's ties to the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity. Anybody tied to that outfit is almost certainly 100% opposed to any kind of stem cell research, since they even advocate adoptions of embryos.

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